Exploring iSchool Career Pathways—Information Organization
Published: February 11, 2015 by Allison Randall Gatt
Are you fascinated by the different ways people look for information? Want to make it easier for people to find the information they are looking for?
If you’ve finished up LIBR 202, you’re hungry for more taxonomies, and you want a bigger bite of metadata, then perhaps you should look into courses and careers in the iSchool’s Information Organization Career Pathway.
Course topics of study include metadata, vocabulary design, cataloging and classification, and library automation systems. Careers in the field of knowledge organization can be in a variety of corporate environments as well as traditional library settings.
Many options for knowledge organization specialists
Dr. Virginia Tucker, the faculty lead for the Knowledge Organization Advisory Committee, encourages students who have a passion for data analysis, website design, and information architecture to pursue this pathway. “LIBR 202 can help students discover if this is their passion and interest,” says Tucker. “If you love metadata or interface design, then go on to web design or more metadata courses.”
Even within the career pathway, there are different options—a focus on website design, information architecture, cataloguing, or even a mix. “The MLIS degree is so versatile,” says Tucker. “There are many directions to take with it.”
Employers who are looking for experts in knowledge organization focus on job titles such as information architect, knowledge management analysts, and taxonomist. These jobs require the ability to classify information in a variety of environments and, as one job description for an information architect says, to be able to “facilitate consistent alignment of business process with business requirements.”
Coursework at the iSchool will help you to look at information that is categorized and used within databases and websites, and be able to align it with user needs and search behaviors. In Tucker’s LIBR 202 class, students will critically analyze a website and then look at ways it can be redesigned to be more effective. Work in other courses in the Information Organization Pathway builds on what students learn in this core course. Class assignments also focus on working with partners and within teams. Teamwork is so important in graduate school because it is a real-life example of what a career as an information professional is all about.
Dr. Tucker herself is leading a team of taxonomy analysts for an academic publishing start-up company. This is where iSchool coursework and group projects really hit the road. Recent iSchool graduate Ellie Fullman, who works on Dr. Tucker’s team at RedLink, says, “I liken the start-up environment to the group project in which each team member puts 110% effort into their part because they are both inspired by the work ethic of their teammates and collectively have the desire to create something that is truly exceptional in nature. I believe this attitude to be a key component of the start-up culture.”
Alumna Joni Savage fell in love with knowledge organization and information architecture after a small taxonomy project in a course at the School of Information.
“When I talk to employers,” says Savage, “I let them know I can help connect their web content and users by helping them understand user intent.” She’s found that by explaining her degree to employers and illustrating the benefit of her skills, she enlightens companies about the importance of the skills that information professionals possess and emphasizes the high value and versatility of an MLIS.
Choosing courses within the Knowledge Organization Career Pathway is a great way to go if user needs and behaviors, taxonomies, and information architecture fascinate you.
Over the next several months, we’ll take a look at a few of the different career pathways offered through the School of Information’s MLIS program. With the exception of LIBR 203 and the other three core courses, LIBR 285, and either a thesis or e-portfolio (for a total of six required courses), the classes you take are your choice—whatever you feel best shapes your career direction, skills, and passions. It is always a good idea to discuss your coursework with your academic advisor, and together you can map out a list of classes that will suit your chosen career goals.
image courtesy of Stuart Miles